3 top tips to connect with your teen

Madeline Sibbing – Psychologist at Northern Centre for Child Development

Adolescence – it’s an inevitability and a time in our childrens’ lives that many of us dread.  I love this quote about the adolescent years – “Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.” That Earl Wilson, he was one clever dude.

In all honesty, though, adolescence can be a truly exciting time – during which young people start to develop their own opinions, to take on greater responsibility, to contribute more to the world, expand their horizons and begin to develop their unique identity. So, rather than simply ignore it and “ride it out” – how can we embrace this exciting time and stay connected with our teenagers?



  1. Be around – this sounds obvious, right? But one thing I learned from many years working in a secondary school is that teenagers still need us just as much, if not MORE, than they did during primary school. Many parents think their kids are now in secondary school so it’s a great time for them to both return to full-time work.  Keep in mind, however, that the transition to secondary school is huge for all kids, especially those with ASD, ADHD, anxiety or other challenges.  This is a time when they need their parents’ time and attention more than ever. It is also a time when they will be increasingly connected to friends outside of school and online – so our availability to talk through problems is absolutely vital.
  2. Exploit those ‘captive’ moments – yep, a car ride is no longer just a car ride! When teens are ‘captive’ in the car and not sitting facing you having to make eye contact, this is the perfect time to ‘casually’ raise topics or inquire about their day. Open-ended questions or conversational invitations using your own comments (eg. “wow I’m exhausted from my professional learning at work today – I don’t know how you do it for six lessons each day!”) are a great way to encourage conversation from your teens.
  3. Get involved – no, I’m not suggesting putting on a leotard and joining your daughter in ballet class! Just get involved in their hobbies and show interest in their social circles:
  • Play that video game with them. That way you know what it is about (and can monitor appropriateness) as well as sharing in the experience with them!
  • Invite their friends over or offer to drop them home. That way you can meet their parents and develop a network of people caring for your teen’s friendship group.
  • Read the books they’re into – you might find that a bit of teen fiction is actually quite enjoyable! And added bonus, there’s another connection for you both!

I’ve no doubt that if you can connect, both you and your teen will absolutely reap the benefits. You will get to see that fabulous mind and personality as it blossoms and they will benefit from the security and connection with one of the most important people in their life.

Madeline Sibbing – Psychologist

This article was written by Madeline Sibbing for Northern Centre for Child Development – a paediatric psychology practice in Melbourne. Madeline is a Paediatric Psychologist with a Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology from Monash University. Her fifteen years of professional experience has been attained within government and independent schools in assessment, therapeutic interventions and consultation with children, adolescents, parents and teachers. She also developed primary prevention programs, mental health awareness activities and teacher training in a secondary college. Madeline spent several years working as an Educational Psychologist in London, UK, as a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society before returning to Melbourne, Australia. Madeline works with all ages at the Northern Centre for Child Development in Preston (Melbourne), from young children through to adolescents and parents. She is able to adapt her therapy accordingly, using playful, creative therapy and parenting strategies for younger children and for older children and adolescents she employs Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Solution-focussed Therapy and mindfulness techniques.

Photo credit: RAYUL on Unsplash

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